CASPER, Wyo. — The Bureau of Land Management has finalized two land acquisitions in Wyoming and Colorado that will provide over 40,000 acres of previously inaccessible public land, the agency’s High Plains District said in a press release Wednesday.
The BLM’s acquisition of 35,670 acres southwest of Casper is the agency’s largest ever purchase in Wyoming and will help create a 118 square mile “contiguous block of public land” that will also improve public access to the North Platte River.
“This acquisition marks a big step forward for improving public access,” said BLM High Plains District Manager Kevin Christensen. “Through our lasting partnership with The Conservation Fund, we have a unique opportunity to conserve crucial wildlife habitat at a landscape scale and expand access to the river and public land for our local community and visitors.”
The property was acquired from the Marton family who transferred the land to the BLM for permanent protection. The BLM worked with the national nonprofit The Conservation Fund to acquire the property.
“The Conservation Fund’s initial purchase was also supported by a grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation,” the press release stated. “Congress provided funding to acquire the ranch over several years, and BLM received $21 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2021 to purchase the ranch in its entirety.”
The property is located east of Alcova Reservoir and is bordered to the north by 8.8 miles of North Platte River frontage. The property extends to the south into Carbon County.
“Acquisition of the property will connect formerly inaccessible BLM and State lands and ensure the continued conservation of important wildlife habitat for Greater Sage-Grouse, raptors, and big game species,” the press release added. “The property’s proximity to Casper and ease of access furthers the Department of the Interior’s commitment to ensuring equitable access to America’s lands and waters.”
The purchase will increase access to the blue-ribbon fishery on the North Platte River that provides “more pounds per mile of fish than any other stream in Wyoming,” according to the BLM. It is also expected to help support tourism and recreation in Casper and Natrona County. The BLM said that travelers spent $285.1 million in Natrona County in 2021.
The land will initially be managed in the same manner as other BLM-managed lands it touches. The agency will work with the Land and Water Conservation Fund and will seek input from tribes, other agencies and the public to develop specific management policies for the area.
“Ensuring a conservation solution like this one requires not just an outstanding landscape, but outstanding private citizens and public servants to match it,” said Dan Schlager, Wyoming state director at The Conservation Fund. “Thanks to the truly exceptional land management and determination of the Marton family, and an unwavering problem-solving commitment from the BLM, this remarkable landscape will remain permanently conserved for the enjoyment of the entire Wyoming community.”
The BLM’s acquisition in Colorado is a 160-acre Escalante Creek Parcel within the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, according to the press release.
The acquisitions in Wyoming and Colorado come as the BLM celebrates Great Outdoors Month.
“These projects support the America the Beautiful initiative, a decade-long challenge to pursue locally led and voluntary efforts nationwide to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030,” the press release adds. “The initiative centers on collaborative conservation, expanding access to public lands, and making outdoor recreation accessible. The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides funding for the acquisition of land, and interest in land, for the benefit of present and future generations. The funding BLM receives is used to support specific conservation, recreation, and other projects to enhance public access to and the management of public land, waters, and resources.
“To learn more about other lands acquired by the BLM through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, please visit BLM’s web map. These and other projects are part of the BLM’s mission to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”